Leaving the Old Order Amish community equals leaving everyone and everything you know. Any Amish that identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or gender questioning will be met with condemnation and Scriptures (Leviticus, always a classic).
They will not be handed a complimentary copy of ‘Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality’ by John Boswell.
Where traditions and heritage run deep there is little choice but leave or live a lie.
Most Amish are of German descent but we are of Swiss stock, my Mom passing when I am 9, thus my upbringing with my father, a model of Swiss tolerance.
I don’t join the church and will not go back.
I go clubbing in Indiana and Michigan.
At 22 I step onstage, making my drag debut at Brothers Beta Club (Kalamazoo, MI) Closet Ball pageant and perform at The Zoo Bar.
I would exchange the cabaret for the poetry slam circuit in my mid 20s and seriously began writing with stars in my eyes.
The Literary Party: Growing Up Gay and Amish in America collects my poetry, writings from 2005-2010 with a few early poems.
The black garbed men cluster by the shed
As the morning sun burns mists away
The unharnassed horses away are led
To the barns stuffed with hay
The men kiss in the Spirit of the Lord
As Christ once kissed his band
Across the green a rushing stream
Serenades the countryland
Only the brethren greet with a kiss
I am but a child yet know
What today I am to miss
And how far I have to go
To find redemption at the border
Of new beginnings and the Old Order.
INDIANA 2 AM
I was such a queer thing.
Even growing up.
Sexuality is not a choice.
Listen to my femme voice.
Even throwing up…
I was such a disco boy.
Spinning through school.
Twirling in my first disco.
The Seahorse Cabaret 2.
Indiana 2 a.m.
He stares at me and smiles…
– from The Literary Party: Growing Up Gay and Amish in America (inGroup Press)
About the Author:
James Schwartz is a poet and slam performer striving for the simplicity of Cavafy mixed with modern gay wordplay and elements. Schwartz’s poetry / slam material dialogues of GLBTQ issues and affirmations of gay (night) life and love. He was born 2.19.78 and raised in the Old Order Amish community in SW MI. As a slam performer Schwartz has read at The Meta Cafe, This is Fire! The Zoo Bar, and the St. Joseph County MI. Democrats’ Inauguration Day party of President Barack Obama.